The Irish biopharma industry is going through a significant cycle of investment at the moment,” says Moran. “Capital investment projects, valued at approximately €4-5 billion, have been completed or are currently in progress around Ireland today. In Dublin and in other parts of Ireland, there are many large companies who are completing, or have completed, biotech manufacturing plants which will create some new jobs by the end of this year.

“Most of the investment taking place now is in biotech, which would currently be the cutting edge of pharmaceutical manufacturing. So, we are very much in expansionary mode.”

Along with expansion comes opportunity, and Moran says that while Ireland’s talent pool is a key global competitive advantage, it is vital to ensure that highly-trained people are available for the biopharma industry.
“The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), a government-sponsored body, conducted a study on the industry to identify what the talent opportunities will be in the future. Last August, they published an interesting report where they identified over 8,000 job opportunities, both through new investment and through replacement of existing staff, as they retire between now and 2020. There’s a need for filling roles across the range of science disciplines, engineering disciplines, manufacturing, development, analytical support, and so forth.

“So, as an industry association, this has become a priority for us. We have a very active skills group and a programme of initiatives to try and ensure that those opportunities are filled. We support graduate fairs, graduate development, meet third level institutes to ensure that courses meet the needs of industry, and promote careers in the industry. We’re also have our Biopharma Ambition event, to showcase the ambition of the industry in providing future health solutions.”

Partnerships are vital

With one of the key advantages of Ireland’s biopharma sector being the productive collaboration between industry, academia and the Government, Moran stresses the importance of further enhancing this relationship – both by continued investment in education and in showcasing the skills of academics that are best suited to the workplace.

“Partnerships between universities and industry for work placement is vital. We ran a Job Seeker programme in collaboration with Skillsnet, the Department of Social Protection, the IDA, Tallaght Institute of Technology and various partner companies. Over 30 graduates were given three-month placements and most of them were then offered full-time positions. NIBRT (National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training) are also continuously developing its training offering to supply highly-educated people for companies.”

“It’s about building good communication between companies and institutes."

Moran says career and industry days are also essential in helping to bridge the gap between third level education and the current skills demand of the industry. “It’s about building good communication between companies and institutes. The institutes can find out more about the companies, and the companies can find out more about the institutes – thereby ensuring that the graduates have suitable skills to work in the industry.

“If you look at the EGFSN report, there’s approximately 5,000 Life Sciences graduates released every year, which is a significant amount – there’s probably enough graduates to fill the opportunities in the industry.
“We are seeing expansion in large-molecule manufacturing in Ireland. It’s a well-embedded industry and more development-type activity is happening. We’re also seeing more specialised shares services taking place and more supply chain management being run out of Ireland. The industry will continue to grow. Ireland is one of the main global manufacturing hubs and the biopharma sector is very important for our country – we just need to ensure our research, innovation and manufacturing excellence is maintained.”